Do read Jonathan Adlers article at NRO on the myth of the great Cuyahoga River fire -- the one that helped make Cleveland the "mistake on the lake" for decades. Adler writes:
The image of a river ablaze seared into the nations emerging environmental consciousness. Former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Carol Browner probably spoke for many Americans when she said "I will never forget a photograph of flames, fire, shooting right out of the water in downtown Cleveland. It was the summer of 1969 and the Cuyahoga River was burning." . . .
Theres a problem with this story. Much of it is myth. Oil and debris on the rivers surface did burn in 1969, and federal environmental statutes were the result, but so much else of what we "know" about the 1969 fire simply is not so. It was not evidence of rapidly declining environmental quality, nor was it clear evidence of the need for federal action.